HSWRI has been a participant in the Southeast U.S. Marine Mammal Stranding Network for more than 15 years and is responsible for cetacean (whale and dolphin) stranding response along the central east coast of Florida. Our Marine Mammal Stranding Team provides animal response and coordination for nearly 124 miles of coast and 1,200 square miles of estuarine waters. Our response area is one of the most active areas for cetacean strandings in the Southeastern United States: from 2001-2016, we responded to 1,142 cetacean strandings.
Marine mammal strandings in our coverage area provide enormous opportunities for scientific research. While the majority of strandings are bottlenose dolphins, numerous species have stranded along Brevard county coastlines. Samples taken from stranded animals are stored at our Florida labs provide a record of decades of animal life in the Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean.
More than 100 volunteers are key in the response to and examination of dead stranded animals, collection of samples, and evaluation of human impacts on dolphins. Our volunteers help us monitor health trends and emerging diseases, expand our capacity for live animal response and rescue, and improve our capacity for response to mass strandings, unusual mortality events (UMEs), natural disasters, and out-of-habitat animals. Our team and volunteers responded to 69 stranded dolphins and whales in 2016.
In addition to stranding response, public awareness is critical to dolphin conservation and we conduct education and outreach efforts year-round. Our team provides first responder volunteer training and educational presentations around the area to encourage Floridians to join us as wildlife conservationists.